Welcome Autumn

welcome autumnThe weather might still be warm, but the crunch of crisp leaves underfoot stamps out any doubt that Autumn is on its way. How does this time of year make you feel?
It makes me feel like nesting and snuggling up in a ball, but I also want to get out and experience it all.

?I love to witness the changes of season… what starts as a subtle shift in colour… the odd dash of orange around the edges, soon transforms into carpets of gold. Then it rains and the crackle turns to squelch and I start making soups and gathering sticks for marshmallows. I take pleasure in noticing the details.

leafOn Monday, I took time… just a few minutes, but time enough to admire the simple joys of the shifting seasons and to highlight them for passers-by who may have forgotten to stop and look. A simple leaf was my inspiration… fallen in the midst of transformation… part orange, part gold, part green. The shadows too, inspired me.

shadow1 shadow2I found myself noticing shapes I had not previously seen. I drew around them and watched in wonder as what I had co-created with the shadows become something different with the assistance of the slow-moving sun.

How does this time of year inspire you?
What will you co-create with nature?

Everything is a miracle

Everything is a miracleAs we stumble through life, there are so many things we overlook. 

On certain days, my eyes are wide to life’s miracles; I notice all of nature’s divine details and on other days, I just drift through in a fog.

As I have mentioned here before, my current weekday routine is to detour through the park as I head home after the morning school run… taking the long way instead of the short cut. This sets me up for the day and gives me the clarity I need to see beyond the blur of Must Do list.

Today, I took a barefoot, mindful stroll in my love’s garden and took the time to enjoy the little miracles that have unfolded since I was here last. Some roses have faded as others have burst into bloom; the grass has become long and the apples have grown. Simple things.

Through my camera, I also see things with fresh eyes. I see shapes and colours in different ways and this slow time absorbing and recording boosts my creativity.

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Albert Einstein

I am choosing the latter. Everything is a miracle.

I would like to share with you this Vietnamese Proverb:
“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree”
and invite you to share your thoughts in the comments here.

With my love,
Julia x

Breaking through creative blocks to finish what I started

Birds in flight

Birds in flight

Last week I started playing… painting with my hands, expressing myself freely, seeing what came out. I loved it… the freedom of movement, the new ways in which I was applying paint, with paper, cardboard, sticks, fingers, even the side of my hand. I liked what I created… the textures, the layers of colour, the freedom of allowing myself to create freely without a goal or even an image in mind was liberating and fun.

However, when it came to moving on to the next stage… attempting to assemble it into some kind of finished work, something changed. I no longer liked it. I felt frustrated, incompetent, restrained.

So I stopped.

Then I looked around… and in doing so, I noticed several abandoned projects. I saw the empty frames asking to be filled. I saw the half-finished paintings, waiting for me to go back to them. I saw the little sculptures that I intended to paint. One day.

And something happened. I realised that this is the point at which I always abandon. This is the moment, when the fear and the feeling of not being good enough take over and I stop. I identified my pattern… my stumbling block.

So I made a conscious decision to continue. I decided to keep working and push through the creative block to see what would happen if I just kept on creating. I tore up my textures and began layering them again. I cut out shapes and pieced them together and added more layers and within the space of just ten minutes, I was happy again. I had created something I loved and wanted to stay up all night just to get it finished.

Common sense (and fatigue) got the better of me and I went to sleep work unfinished, but today I went back to the piece again.

I layered more. I painted more. I cut new images, pasted them on… and frustration set in again. Doubts crept in… I felt like walking away. So I did for a while, but instead of walking away from my art, I painted through the frustration, I cut more shapes, tried new techniques and went back to the original piece.

It took a while to arrive at the finished piece, but I made it. With persistence and determination I managed to create something I rather like. I needed patience to reach this place, but it sits in a big square box frame now, grass flapping forward as if bowing in the breeze, birds wings curling as though in flight and I have positioned it, pride of place, in the living room, just to remind me that if I just keep on going I will get there… even if I don’t know exactly where I am headed when I start.

Flock of birds painting framed

Flock of birds painting framed

Three free and easy ways to connect with nature creatively

In our busy lives, it is easy to let the natural beauty that surrounds us pass us by. It is everywhere… in the cracks and in the air, always there, regardless of whether or not we choose to take notice of it. Same goes for creativity… it is just a case of seizing every opportunity and making creativity part of your daily life.

Here’s how it happened for me…

Like many of my friends, I stopped creating right after finishing Uni. The pressure of creating something that ticked all of the required boxes when all I wanted to do was express myself had taken its toll and meant that whilst I still appreciated art in a big way, I no longer felt compelled to make it.

For the years that followed, I always felt creative, but I was not really creating… not drawing, painting, stitching, making… and I felt frustrated at not doing so. But I did not know where to start… the idea of creating freely had been sucked out of me and I had not found my way back to the pre-Uni place where I was creating freely, naturally, on a daily basis.

I tried various things to get back into art again: I signed up for classes; I got together with creative friends for dedicated making sessions; I bought new materials, sketchbooks, paint. Whilst each of these things led to a short flurry of activity, none of them made the desired impact on my confidence in art. The one thing that changed everything for me was this: a simple decision… to give myself permission to create. I told myself this:
It does not matter what you make, just make something. Do it every day for a month and see what happens.

It changed everything.

I gave myself the freedom to make art without worrying about what I was making or why, without being swayed by what anyone else would think, just to make art because I wanted to invite art back into my life. It was not always easy. Some days I did not know where to start, but I still started. Some days I had lots of ideas and sat up until the early hours letting them flow, and others I snatched a few brief moments to do a little sketch whilst travelling on the tube or waiting for my cuppa in a café.

I abandoned all excuses in favour of making art.

But the one thing that really changed for me was seeing (once again… I seemed to do it naturally as a child and teenager, but needed to re-learn) that opportunities to be creative are everywhere… and that every day we are making creative decisions, acting and thinking creatively without even noticing. It is really just about being aware and making the most of those opportunities. Art is everywhere!

There are three things I would like to share with you today. They are three things you may already do, but with extra awareness and attention, they are the keys to appreciation of the simplest of things… to experiencing the magic and wonder of what is all around us every day. Each of these things I practised whilst on holiday in Cornwall last week and will continue to enjoy on a regular basis now back at home.

1. Watch the clouds
Sit back, look up… what do you see…? This is not only a great game to play with kids, but also a wonderful way to stretch your adult imagination on lazy days or for pure escapism during your lunch break. It connects you to nature, the wider world and brings back some of that childlike sense of wonder we could all benefit from experiencing again. We spotted all manner of mythical creatures in the skies over Crantock last week.
Shapes in the clouds

2. Take photographs
Taking photographs, particularly out in nature, encourages us to look at things more closely, or to see them in a different way. I glanced at this wall before taking a photograph, but only saw the face through the camera lens!

3. Make stuff with nature, in nature
Art does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. It can be as simple as a little gathering of what’s around you and assembling it into what is in your head. Here is a windswept me on the beach in Newquay.

Try them today…

Please be sure to let me know how you get on…

I would love to hear of any other simple ways you connect creatively with what is around you.

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share it on. x

Shifting sheds and recycling doors to create a gorgeous communal space in the garden

Ready for action!

Ready for action!

Yesterday, I wrote about what I have achieved here at home recently. What I did not mention was that the work indoors was preceded by some serious changes out of doors. The text below was written last night as part of the previous blogpost, but I decided to save it for today to enable me to also share some images with you. 

This was where all of the de-cluttering and space changing really began…

Our first task was to knock down a shed. Contents were removed and B (with some help from big boy) took the shed apart. Piece by piece we took it out front, loaded the car, dumped the lot. The contents were next. A big job to sort through, but liberating. Easier to do outside than inside for some reason. Everything that was still required had to find a space in shed #2 and this meant emptying and sorting shed #2. A major task, we got stuck in, took more stuff to the dump and B built shelves to organise only the things I still wanted. The rest was gone. This, I learned, was an important part of the clearing out process… if it doesn’t have a home, it has to go. So, we made homes for the things I wanted and lost a whole lot of stuff that had been hanging around too long.

We already had a plan for the space where the shed had been, but this morphed as we set to work. It had always been our intention to create a small seating area where shed #1 had been. During one of our lunch breaks, we created a makeshift table by placing the old shed door on old Singer sewing machine legs which had been doing nothing outside the back door for too long. Sitting at our makeshift table, we were struck with how lovely it was to be sat there, up on the little raised area at the end of the garden, sharing a meal in the sun. Talking our ideas through with big boy, he revealed that he was quite happy with his little wooden house where it was and so our plans to move his house up to the back of the new seating area were set aside. This meant that we had more room for the seating area. With this in mind, we went on a little skip-trawling mission. A few minutes into our adventure and we discovered a big wooden door looking unwanted in a front garden. B knocked on the door and asked if we could take it away. Happy for us to do so, the friendly chap even helped carry it to the car. We strapped it to the roof with a couple of bunjies and after some deliberation over dimensions, B cut it down to a more manageable size. It was then sanded and primed, painted and re-painted and fixed firmly to the Singer base. I know have a fabulous table in my garden around which I can comfortably seat eight people; ten at a squeeze.

And the best part? B used his woodworking skills to built me a beautiful pergola. I created a little bird template and he cut this gorgeous detail into the ends of each beam. Wisteria is already beginning to wind its way over it, and most meals have been eaten at the table under it on sunny days since it was completed. Big boy and I even enjoyed a game of Monopoly out there one morning. It has meant that I am now much happier using my outdoor space and can’t wait to invite friends to share a meal there and light some candles as the evening closes in.

Come on over…

Art in the open

The weekend is almost over, but I can safely say, smile on face, that what I created this weekend, with the help of my children and friends, was the best this month by far. We have created lots of lasting memories. Ours has been a weekend of fresh air, mud and water, filthy fingers, dirty clothes, tree-climbing, log-hopping fun.

Saturday afternoon and a big group of us gathered in Trent Park to celebrate the Birthdays of two brothers – both friends of my boys. Mum and Dad had clearly put a lot of thought into this day. Bunting hung from branches to mark the party spot; rugs were spread below the trees and a rope swing hung over the slope that led down to the stream where the kids paddled up to their knees, built bridges and ran about happily, getting wetter and wetter. Tea was available in flasks for thirsty parents; Mum handed round her home-baked delights, enough for all; juice bottles were recycled and made into glow bugs with the addition of cardboard wings, googly eyes and glow sticks; Grandpa had brought his bicycle pump and was shooting water bottle rockets way up into the air to the delighted squeals of the children below; white chocolate rabbits had been hidden in the open field for the children to discover on their treasure hunt and the other games that were on offer were not even necessary as the children were so busy making their own entertainment.

We had so much fun that the boys and I wanted to go back for more today. They were keen to return to their bridge, play again in the stream, and why would I wish to refuse them the joy of inventing their own games; making bridges across streams; using leaves as boats to float downstream and over little waterfalls?

I had my own ideas as well and set about gathering the materials for my mission: sticks, stones, bark, leaves. What began as a simple heart drawn with a stick in the soil, became a little trail of hearts made of natural materials, winding through the woods.

Such simple activities, connecting with nature, using what is freely available to create something that people may unexpectedly discover, and that will shift and change as the wind blows and the rain falls, brings me great joy. The shapes of the trees and their shadows; the scent of the damp earth; light glistening on the rapidly running stream; the sound of birds singing, children playing; the feel of thick mud squelching beneath my boots.

How little we need to be happy… nature provides all that we require to have an adventurous day, indulging our senses out in the wild.